CEF Dallas was saddened to learn last month of the passing of Jane Eagleston. Jane was a faithful volunteer with CEF and served the Lord with joy as she taught each week in a local Good News Club.
In celebrating her life, her pastor, Roy Williamson at Stonebriar Church, shared about the long term impact of Good News Clubs – not just in Jane’s life, but his as well.
Let his testimony be an encouragement to you as you serve the Lord through the ministries of CEF. The Lord is using you. You don’t know what the ripple effect of your service will look like. In Jane’s case, and in the case of her pastor, those ripples extend far beyond what one teacher might have imagined.
From Jane’s obituary:
“For the past seven years, she has taught an after-school Christian Bible program for children, The Good News Club. Janie attended the Good News Club as a young girl in Elyria, Ohio, and it impacted her so much that she felt inspired to help other children. Teaching children about God proved challenging since she had never taught before and a priceless joy because she loved every minute of it.”
Can you see yourself there? Challenged and yet experiencing priceless joy – what a mighty God we serve!
And her pastor’s message, reprinted without alteration:
I have learned over the years that there are two ways to come to know a person. The first is spend a lot of time with him or her, sharing experience. That is how most of you know Jane – you shared your lives with her and she with you.
I came to know Jane the other way – I spent time with people who loved her. Those who graciously shared their experiences have given me a clear picture of who she was and have also made it clear why I would really like to have had her as a friend.
And what I learned was that Janie Eagleston’s joy, life, and impact can be summed up in two words: “good news.” Consider what we have called to mind about her. As an elementary school student, she participated in the Good News Club. If her Club was like mine, it met in a home, and we learned about God through stories illustrated on the flannel graph and the “wordless book.” The Good News Club at Rusk Elementary met at my house during the 1960-61 school year and almost every guy in my fifth-grade class attended at one time or another. The Good News was presented clearly by Mrs. Hecker, and that meant that half of our neighborhood baseball team: Pat, Leonard, Billy, Eddie, and my brother Bob will be in Heaven. That’s really good news to a fifth grade boy! I suspect that Janie will also have some school friends from her school days to play with in Heaven also.
Being from a loving and supportive family was good news for Janie, and she joyfully carried this “news” forward. The arrival of every child, grandchild and great grandchild was to her very good news. Her joy was expressed through food. We can all appreciate a mom or grandmother who cooks great food – that is good news to anyone’s taste buds.
Adulthood and employment were good news for Janie: helping others as a social worker was to her a special blessing and source of personal joy. Later, Janie was afforded the opportunity to discover and exercise the management gifts and business talents God gave her. The personal fulfillment was another source of joy and hence good news for Janie.
Then Janie came full circle with good news. For the past seven years she taught the same Good News Clubs that she so enjoyed as a child. There she discovered another talent God gave her – teaching. She loved every minute of it and relished every opportunity to give children the same Good News that she received. The priceless joy she discovered in teaching was coupled with exciting anticipation of her future impact in these young lives.
When I mention future impact, I reflect on my experience. The clear and gentle teaching of Mrs. Hecker in the Good News Club that met at our house produced a seminary professor, a pastor, a pastor’s wife, three long time Sunday School teachers, and the widow of a church elder. Just from my immediate family. Janie, like all faithful Good News Club teachers only learn of their future – eternal – impact in eternity.
She lived her temporal impact, for God used the Good News (capital “G,”capital “N”) she received to bring about good news throughout her life. Her loving Heavenly Father provided her a life marked by joy, fulfillment, and personal impact – both in the immediate and for the future.
And hope. For the Good News for all of us provides hope – hope defined by the Biblical Greek word elpis – “confident expectation.” Confident expectation during our life in time and confident expectation of life after time – in eternity. Where Janie is now. Where the gold page of the wordless book tells us that “the street of the city is pure gold.” Where there is “no more pain, no more death, no more crying.” In a word, Heaven.
Heaven. If you ask most folks how they will reach Heaven, they will say, “If I am a good person, I will go to heaven.” The Bible contradicts this. Revelation 20:11-15 records the final judgment and tells us that “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books [that recorded] their good works.” Regardless of the level or nature of our good works, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life [God’s family album], he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The nature or number of good works does not determine our eternal destiny. To live with God eternally we must be members of God’s family.
How do you gain entrance in God’s family? Can you earn it? No. Eternal God has infinite and perfect standards. We are finite and imperfect beings. The Scripture defines imperfection or sin as “falling short of the glory of God.” Anything less than the perfection of God is sin. Since we cannot meet the eternal standard of perfection, being judged for our good works is bad news. All that our best efforts as sinful creatures can earn us is death: separation from God for eternity. This is confirmed by the Scriptures: “the wages of sin is death.”
Do we ultimately “deserve” entrance into God’s family? No. Quite the opposite. The Bible also tells us that we were born condemned, that sin is the curse on all creation because of the first sin in human history, that of Adam and Eve.
Everyone born to human parents comes under this curse, as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all mankind, because all sinned.”
But wait. At the final judgment, those whose names are in the Book of Life are delivered out of judgment and into a place of “no more tears, no more death.” So, “How do I get my name written in God’s family album, the Book of Life?” Very simply: the same way you got into your birth family – you received it as a gift that was prompted by love and given in love. John 3:16, the most readily recognized verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Romans 6:23 tells us that “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” While we through our best efforts can only earn death, we are offered eternal life as a free gift.
Janie took this gift. It was free to her in the same way it is free to you: because Jesus Christ paid for it. Eternal life, living forever in the heavenly presence of God and free from the pains and suffering of time, was purchased for us by God’s own son. “He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might have the righteousness of God through Him.” Our penalty of eternal separation from God, the just penalty for sin, was paid in full by Jesus Christ on the cross.
To ensure that we understand that this is a free gift, the Bible adds, “For it is by grace that you have been saved (from eternal death) through faith; and that (salvation) is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Janie recognized that Jesus’ sacrifice purchased this gift for all of us. The Son of God set aside His prerogatives and rights, and all the comforts and joys of Heaven to become a man, live among men and suffer the pains and hurts of mankind. Beyond that, He went to the cross and suffered the ultimate penalty for sin – on behalf of all mankind. He did so because He loves us, recognized our inability to meet God’s standard, and willingly took our place and suffered what we deserved. He offers us His love in the only way that love can come – as a gift.
As is true of any gift, it only benefits us if we take it.
In light of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jane saw everything she did for others as just “the reasonable thing to do.” Jesus Christ’s love and compassion for her prompted her love and compassion for others. We lived in the aura of her joy and recognize that she is now reaping the eternal benefits of her decision to place her trust in Jesus Christ.
There is only one thing that could add to Jane’s joy today, and that would be for everyone here to share her destiny. If she could speak, she would call out to any who do not know Jesus Christ – “Trust in Him. Accept His gift. The future for you will be eternally bright, and you will gain an understanding heavenly friend to walk with you through both the difficulties and triumphs of life.”
You can do that right where you are sitting. Silently acknowledge to God that you have sinned, that you want to receive Jesus’ payment for your sins. That is all that is necessary to accept the free gift God offers to you.
By receiving this gift, you can know, just as Jane knew, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And can face your passing from time into eternity the same way Jane did – quietly and confidently, knowing that, because of the amazing grace of God, you too will also spend eternity with God. — Pastor Roy Williamson, Stonebriar Church, February 10, 2023
You can surely see the lasting impact of service to the Lord, and the efficacy of the Good News Club in bringing children to a place where they can receive the gift of salvation. We praise God for Jane’s life, her obedience to Him, and the fruit of her efforts. We thank Him as well for the life of Mrs. Hecker, who no one at CEF Dallas has ever met, by whose faithfulness impacts us thanks to the ripple effects of the fruit of her efforts in the lives of those 5th grade boys all those years ago. And we thank Him for the willingness of Pastor Roy Williamson to share the roots of his faith and his ministry — it’s a tremendous encouragement to each of us.